This report examines the formation and impacts of Cyclone Debbie, the most powerful storm to make landfall in Queensland.

Making landfall on the 28 March 2017, Debbie caused widespread devastation and flooding, resulting in the second highest damage bill of any extreme weather event to hit Australia. Her high wind speeds and rainfall wrecked havoc from North Queensland, right through to Northern New South Wales. Given the widespread impacts, this storm was an obvious choice to be the first Australian cyclone sonified.

It also explores the process of data sonification, a process of taking data collected every 6 hours from Debbie’s formation and creating an audio track representing the storm's latitude, longitude, circularity and central air pressure.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Cyclone Debbie was the first cyclone since the 2014-15 season to reach severe status (Category 3 (AUS) or more).
  • Cyclone Debbie was the most powerful storm to make landfall in Queensland (QLD) since Cyclone Yasi in 2011.
  • Debbie had the highest ever recorded windspeed in Queensland, 263km/h at Hamilton Island.
  • Debbie has the second highest damage bill of any cyclone in Australia at $1.56 billion.
  • Debbie made landfall at 12:40pm Tuesday 28 March 2017 at Airlie Beach, 50km southeast of Bowen as a Category 4.
  • The maximum category of the cyclone was 4 with maximum sustained wind speeds of 195 km/h, gusts of 260 km/h, and a lowest central pressure of 943 hPA.
  • More than 65,000 homes were without power in North Queensland.
  • Major flooding over huge parts of southern Queensland and New South Wales (NSW).
  • The highest recorded 24 rainfall recorded during the event was 646mm at Clarke range.
  • In March 2018 the name Debbie was retired from naming in Australia due to its severity.

For more information please download the full Cyclone Debbie: Sonification background report here.

This report is the second in a series of reports examining how renewables are discussed in Australian newspapers, with a particular focus on the Snowy Hydro Project. The Snowy Hydro Project came at a key time in Australia’s uptake of renewable energy. Alongside this project events in the political space, energy price peaks and the South Australian mid-latitude cyclone worked to promote discussion. This study highlights that the rhetoric on renewables in Australian newspapers is divided, with corporate ownership of the paper playing the biggest role in how positive or negative this was.

This study looked at key terms around renewables in Australian articles between the 15th-17th March 2017 which correlates with the Federal Government’s announcement of the Snowy Hydro expansion on the 15th March.

Key findings of the study include that:

  • In articles mentioning climate change, 68% articles had a negative sentiment towards renewables and 32% had a positive sentiment.
  • News Corp Australia had a greater focus on fossil fuel narratives. Their discussion of renewables was only 36% positive, mostly focusing on the Snowy Hydro scheme. This is compared to 51% positive coverage in Fairfax, which focused on renewables as a solution to energy security.
  • Discussion of renewable energy targets (RET) featured in only 20% of articles.
  • There was a marked difference in political sentiments relating to renewable energy. Fairfax tended towards left-leaning sentiment in reporting on renewable energy and News Corp Australia had a clear preference to the right.
  • 73% of articles used politicians as key actors in the discourse, with 58% referencing the LNP and 48% referencing the ALP. This is compared to 10% of articles referencing renewable energy actors and 44% using energy resource companies.
  • Only 13% of articles mentioned climate change at all. Of this limited discussion of climate change, 46% of the articles were skeptical and 54% were a positive discussion of climate change.
  • Regional issues were a clear influence on discourse related to energy security topics. South Australian media coverage was proportionately higher than the other Australian regions. Victorian and national media also provided high coverage on the issue.

Please click here to download the full Framing of Renewables in Australian Newspapers: the Snowy Hydro Case report

This report documents the initial findings of the first Australian weather presenters survey. The survey sought to understand the collective attitudes of the Australian weather presenting community in relation to climate change. Specifically, it aimed to gauge their interest in the possibility of including climate information in their weather presentations. The survey also strove to understand the level of engagement that weather presenters currently have with climate change in both their personal and professional lives.

Key findings of the report include very strong trends in the following areas:

  • 97% of respondents thought that climate change is happening.
  • 76% of respondents thought that climate change that has occurred over the last 50 years has been either ‘largely or entirely’ caused by human activity, or ‘mostly by human activity’.
  • 97% of respondents believed that viewers had either ‘strong trust’ or ‘moderate trust’ in them as a reliable source of weather information.
  • 91% of respondents were comfortable with presenting local historical climate statistics and just under 70% were comfortable with future local climate projections
  • 97% of respondents thought that their audiences would be interested in learning about the impacts of climate change.

For more information please download the full 2017 Australian weather presenter survey here.

This report documents the findings of a national survey of TV audiences’ views on climate change in Australia. The survey sought to evaluate the receptiveness that Australian television audiences have for adding climate change information to weather segments of news bulletins.

The findings of the survey revealed that:

  • 87.8% of respondents were interested in learning about the impacts of climate change in a weather bulletin.
  • 84.65% of respondents indicated they would continue watching their main news program if it started presenting information on climate change.
  • If other channels presented information on climate change when a viewer’s main channel did not, 57.43% of the audiences said they would switch their news program.
  • Viewers reported that extreme weather was the most important kind of information they were interested in, with the top five being: powerful storms, heatwaves, floods, bushfires and tropical cyclones.
  • Local climate projections and historical data were favoured over national and global data for future projections and for historical information.

For more information please download the full survey of Australian TV audience's views on climate change.

This report is the first of a series examining the way that climate change is reported on in relation to extreme weather events. It examines the mid-latitude cyclone that damaged infrastructure in South Australia on September 29 2016, causing a statewide power blackout when it brought down 22 transmission towers.

The study searched for all Australian newspaper articles that mentioned either a storm or a cyclone in relation to South Australia that had been published in the ten days either side of the event. This returned 591 articles. Most of the relevant articles were published after the storm, with warnings of the cyclone beforehand.

Key findings included:

  • 51% of articles were about the power outage and 38% were about renewables, but 12% of all articles connected these two.
  • 20% of articles focused on the event being politicised by politicians.
  • 9% of articles raised climate change as a force in the event and the blackouts.
  • 10% of articles blamed the blackouts on renewables.
  • Of all of the articles linking power outages to renewables 46% were published in News Corp and 14% were published in Fairfax.
  • Narratives that typically substituted any possibility of a link to climate change, included the “unstoppable power of nature” (18%), failure of planning (5.25%), and triumph of humanity (5.6%).

Visualizing the power of renewables in the City of Monash

This survey details the results of a collaborative study between Monash University and the City of Monash in which 457 residents were interviewed to understand the motivations and barriers that households experience with regards to installing renewable energy in the home. Renewable energy technology includes roof -top solar, battery storage and solar hot water systems.

The survey found that the top five reasons residents highlighted for choosing renewable energy technologies in the home were reducing gas/electricity bill, environmental reasons, sustainability reasons, reducing household carbon emissions and reducing air pollution generated from coal/ fossil fuels / non-renewable resources. In contrast, the main reason homeowners without without renewable technologies had avoided having them installed were installation costs, while renters highlighted their inabillity to make changes to their property as their biggest barrier.

A second purpose of the survey was to research the efficacy of a range of positive, easy to process messages about renewable energy. In the US research has found that ‘social learning’ through visualizing how renewable technology can rapidly transform electricity provision had a substantial influence over consumer decisions about domestic solar, battery storage and purchasing clean sources of energy. Establishing a proven model of how renewable and distributed energy works, has much greater potential for uptake than challenging consumers about the threats of dangerous climate change. However, the complexity of renewable technology can make it difficult for consumers to visualise and so this project will draw on expertise in animated urban modelling and ‘adaptive visualisation’ to explain the significance of zero-carbon initiatives in an engaging way. It is hoped that the outcomes of this research will provide a benchmark for how renewable programs communication and policies can be scaled up to entire cities across Australia.

For more information, please download the full Visualising the power of renewables in the City of Monash report here.